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The 2016 Uni Watch NFL preview

The 49ers 70th anniversary patch is just one of the many subtle changes you will see in the NFL in 2016. San Francisco 49ers

With the 2016 NFL season due to start on Thursday night in Denver, we're facing something unprecedented: Not a single team has undergone a redesign to its primary home and road uniforms this year.

That's a Uni Watch first. In the 17-plus years that your friendly uniform columnist has been plying his trade, the NFL has never started a season with zero team redesigns. And there was only one makeover last year -- the Browns -- which means the NFL is currently experiencing a period of unparalleled uniform stability (or, depending on your point of view, unparalleled uniform boredom). So much for Nike turning the league's look upside down, right?

But that doesn't mean there's no uni-related news to discuss. For one thing, there's the usual array of throwbacks, jersey patches, helmet decals, field designs, and the like. There's also the second season of Nike's monochromatic Color Rush uniforms, which will be worn for Thursday night games. Those uniforms haven't been unveiled yet, and it's not yet clear whether they'll be revealed on a week-by-week basis (as was the case last year), all at once or based on some other schedule. In any case, it's something to look forward to -- or maybe dread, given how bad most of last year's Color Rush uniforms were.

Until then, here's our annual team-by-team rundown of the changes that have been announced so far, broken down by division.

AFC East

• The Bills are no longer playing in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The team's longtime home has a new name: New Era Field. There was talk of keeping Wilson's moniker as part of the new naming rights arrangement, but that idea was ultimately scrapped in order to maximize the deal's value for New Era.

In addition, cornerback Nickell Robey has honored his late mother by legally changing his surname to Robey-Coleman, which gives him a hyphenated nameplate (further details here):

Also: The Bills will retire Bruce Smith's No. 78 as part of their home-opener festivities in Week 2. It marks only the second number retirement in team history (the first was for Jim Kelly).


• The Dolphins will wear 1966 throwbacks against the Bills on Oct. 23 and against the 49ers on Nov. 27, and they will wear white for four of their other six home games (additional info here):

Also, the Dolphins' stadium has a new name: Hard Rock Stadium. This is, incredibly, the building's eighth name in less than 30 years (the previous seven being Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium, and Sun Life Stadium), by far the most of any NFL facility. Expect to see a lot of the Hard Rock logo around the stadium.


• Running back Matt Forte didn't have an accent on his nameplate when he played for the Bears. But now that he's with the Jets, he has added an accent:


• Nothing new this season for the Patriots, although it's worth noting that the team will no longer be allowed to wear numberless jerseys during spring practices.

AFC North

• The Bengals are among the handful of teams that usually post their uniform schedule on their website, but they haven't yet done so for 2016. When they eventually get around to it, the uni schedule should be available on this page.

Meanwhile, the Bengals have added a sideline memorial for Paul Brown Stadium head groundskeeper Darian Daily, who passed away in late August:


Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor has added "Sr" to his jersey nameplate (further info here):


• The Ravens surprised everyone late last season by wearing a set of mustard pants. Most fans didn't like them, although the response here at Uni Watch HQ was a bit more charitable. No word yet on whether they'll be worn again in 2016, or if they'll go down as a one-and-done.

Meanwhile, the Ravens have a new field design this season (additional info here):


• The Steelers will wear their bumblebee throwbacks on Oct. 9 against the Jets (further info here). This is reportedly the final year for this uniform.

In addition, team president Art Rooney II says the team will wear its Color Rush uniform on Christmas Day against the Ravens, and that the design will be solid-black with gold numbers. Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, so that will be a rare non-Thursday appearance for the Color Rush program. No visuals yet, unfortunately.

Also: Every year around this time fans start saying, "Hey, the Steelers have scrapped their front helmet numbers!" That's actually an annual thing -- they never wear the helmet numbers for preseason games. But you can be assured that the numbers will be restored in time for Week 1 of the regular season.

AFC South

Colts: No announced changes or news.


• Nothing new for the Jaguars, but here's a nugget to chew on: When the Jags' current uni set was unveiled in 2013, it included a teal alternate jersey. In the three seasons that have been played since then, that jersey has been worn only once, for a 2013 game against the Chargers. It's not a bad look; they should consider bringing it out of the mothballs.


• Kudos to the Texans, who have always posted their week-by-week uniform schedule on their website. Here's this year's edition. Why can't every team do this?

Meanwhile, wide receiver Will Fuller has become the latest NFL player to add a Roman numeral to his nameplate:

Also: NRG Stadium's end zones, which had previously been green, are now blue -- definitely an upgrade.

Also-also: When the Texans play the Raiders in a Monday night matchup on Nov. 21, the game will take place in Mexico. Here's the rather underwhelming logo for that game:


• In one of the coolest developments of the year, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has a new facemask that sorta-kinda spells out "808," which is the area code of his native Hawaii (additional info here):

Also: In this era of corporate endorsements and sponsorships, it's interesting to see that cornerback B.W. Webb has been wearing a Waffle House compression sleeve during practices -- not due to any endorsement deal but simply because, well, he loves Waffle House (additional info here):

Finally, it's worth noting that team owner Amy Adams Strunk is reportedly considering some uniform changes for 2018. Here's hoping that comes to fruition, as this team could definitely use a makeover.

AFC West

• The defending Super Bowl champion sometimes wears a championship patch in Week 1. No word yet on whether the Broncos, the current champs, will be doing that for this Thursday night's game against the Panthers.


• Nothing new on the docket for the Chargers, although it's a safe bet that they'll be rolling out their glorious powder blue alternates at least once.


• Most NFL teams put a logo or other graphic on their nose bumper -- that little white panel at the base of the helmet's forehead area. But for the third straight season, the Chiefs are one of two teams (the other is Washington) that are keeping that area blank:


• The award for the year's subtlest uni change goes to the Raiders, who've added black outlining to the silver numerals on their black home jersey. The outlining mostly blends in with the black jersey fabric, so most fans won't even notice. But for the notoriously change-averse Raiders, this qualifies as a major uniform update!

NFC East

• As you've probably heard, there has been a bit of a controversy in Dallas, where the Cowboys responded to the recent ambush shootings of police officers by adding an "Arm in Arm" helmet decal during team practices, symbolizing the team's solidarity with both the police department and the local community. The Cowboys wanted to wear the decal for games as well as practices -- if not during the regular season, then at least during the preseason -- but the NFL, in what seems like a shortsighted move, turned down that request (additional info here and here).


• No announced changes or news for the Eagles, but they'll probably wear their black alternates at least once, as they've done for the past four seasons.


• For the past three years, the Giants have worn their white alternate pants for two games each season. This year they'll wear the white pants for all eight of their home games, with their gray pants worn only on the road, and they're also changing their shoe color from black to white (further info, along with the team's full 2016 uniform schedule, is available here):


• Most NFL teams put a logo or other graphic on their nose bumper -- that little white panel at the base of the helmet's forehead area. But for the third straight season, Washington is one of two teams (the other is Kansas City) that are keeping that area blank:

NFC North

• The Bears' uniform schedule shows that they'll wear their Monsters of the Midway throwbacks for two divisional games: Oct. 2 against the Lions and Oct. 31 against the Vikings.

Also: In recent years the Bears have always used white base-layer shirts when wearing their dark home jerseys. They appear to be changing things up for 2016, wearing dark base layers that match the dark jerseys:


• The Lions added a "WCF" memorial patch for former owner William Clay Ford in 2014. Most observers expected it to be worn for one season, but the team wore it again in 2015 and is wearing it again this year, so it appears to be the league's latest perma-memorial, like the ones worn by the Bears, Raiders, and Chiefs:

Also: The Lions have used green end zones in recent years at Ford Field, but this year they're changing to Honolulu blue -- a big improvement:

In addition, fans may notice another new element at Ford Field this season: cheerleaders.

Meanwhile, those who keep track of uniform numbers may notice that wide receiver Anquan Boldin wore No. 81 during his 13 seasons with the Ravens, Cardinals, and 49ers but has switched to No. 80 now that he's with the Lions. Why? The fact that 81 was worn by Calvin Johnson probably had something to do with it.

And one final Lions note: Team president Ron Wood says new uniforms are likely for next season.


• The Packers will wear their 1940s throwbacks, which they debuted last year, on Oct. 16 against the Cowboys (further info here):

Also: Remember how Green Bay wide receiver James Jones routinely wore a hoodie on the field last season? He won't be doing that this year, because the NFL has banned it.


• The Vikings have come up with a set of gloves to show support for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who's sidelined with a season-ending knee injury. One glove has Bridgewater's nickname, Teddy2Gloves, and the other has the hashtag #CallGod, which Bridgewater frequently uses on social media:

NFC South

• When the Buccaneers played their first season in their new uniform set in 2014, they sometimes wore orange socks -- a good look that helped the orange trim on the jersey pop a bit more and was a nice echo of their old Creamsicle uniforms. Last year, though, the orange socks disappeared. Here's hoping they make a comeback this season.


• Nothing new to report for the Falcons, but team president Rich McKay says he'd like the team to have a throwback option when it moves into its new stadium next season.


• The Panthers have released their jersey schedule. It calls for the team to wear its blue alternate jersey for a Monday night game against the Bucs on Oct. 10 and a Color Rush uniform -- the same blue-over-blue design they wore last year -- for a Thursday night game against the Saints on Nov. 17 (additional info here):


• This will be the 50th season for the Saints, and they're celebrating with a variety of initiatives, including a commemorative jersey patch (which is discussed at greater length here):

In addition, the Saints have added a memorial helmet decal for former defensive end Will Smith, who was shot and killed in April:

Also: The Superdome has been outfitted with new video boards and field banners:

NFC West

• No announced changes or news for the Cardinals, but they'll probably wear their black alternates at least once, as they've done for the past six seasons.


• The 49ers are celebrating their 70th anniversary with a commemorative logo and jersey patch:

Also: For years now, the 49ers' uniforms have been bedeviled by their sleeve stripes, which typically have one full-length stripe followed by one or two partial, truncated stripes. A few stalwart players over the years have somehow managed to get their jerseys tailored in a way that allowed for three genuine wraparound stripes, including place-kicker David Akers and quarterback Alex Smith. It looked like we'd be adding another name to that list -- rookie quarterback Jeff Driskel, whose sleeve stripes were like a beacon of light in the preseason -- but he didn't make the Niners' final roster cut. Here's hoping other San Francisco players follow his example.


• With the Rams having moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles, many fans were expecting a new uniform set this season. Sorry, folks, but the wheels don't turn that quickly. Due to all the new merchandise that has to be produced and fed into the retail pipeline, it usually takes two years for an NFL team to execute a uniform change. In the Rams' case, they might wait until their new stadium is ready to open in 2019. In any event, they'll be sticking with their same uniforms this season, but they've announced that they'll be wearing solid white for all their 2016 home games:


Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson now has his own personal logo (further info here):

Additional Notes

• The league's well-established month-long protocols -- pink trim for breast cancer awareness in October and camouflage trim to salute the military in November -- will be rolled out once again.


• It was reported back in the spring that the league was taking a look at establishing new standards for receivers' gloves, which in recent years have become so tacky that one-handed catches have become routine. No word on whether anything has come of that.


• Weirdest uni-related rule change proposal of the year came from the Ravens, who suggested that ineligible receivers reporting as eligible receivers should have to wear pinnies. That idea, unsurprisingly, did not gain traction among the league's higher-ups.

And that's a wrap. Did we miss anything? If so, you know what to do.

Paul Lukas gets a little worked up about things like the 49ers' sleeve stripes. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.